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TNA iMPACT! Preview

After last year’s SVR 08 debacle, we wrestling gamers have had a bad taste in our mouth that no amount of Listerine, Tic Tacs, or making out with Megan Fox could ever remove. Most of us have been waiting for a revolutionary wrestling game since the N64 glory days. Since then, Graphics have improved but unfortunately, little else has followed on the upward trend.

This September, we will see the first major competitor to THQ’s WWE games in nearly a decade (God, that makes feel old. And creepy…. But, I digress...), when Midway unveils TNA iMPACT! for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and PS2.

For those who do not follow wrestling, TNA is a different animal than the WWE. Shows are smaller and more intimate, and although storylines are prevalent, it’s TNA’s in-ring action that really sells it. TNA sports some of the most athletically impressive matches, and doesn’t always save them for pay-per-views. For wrestling fans, TNA at least partially fills the void that ECW left when Mr. McMahon enveloped it into his sports-entertainment empire, and then resurrected it as a watered-down developmental league.

Following the trend of in-ring focus, developers of TNA have been quoted as saying that iMPACT will have more of a gameplay focus, and push aside the bells and whistles for the time being. While it’s hard to get excited about a game that is advertised as stripped-down, a severe upgrade in the gameplay department is what wrestling gamers have been eagerly anticipating for the better part of ten years.

As unfortunately, I don’t have enough juice for Midway to give me a sneak peak at the game, (Well, not yet anyway…) I’ve spent the better part of the past week reading and watching everything I can dig up on TNA iMPACT. Here are some plausible pros and cons of the game, as well as some things I’ve yet to reach a verdict on….

POSSIBLE PROS:



Graphics


This game looks unbelievable. From the arena, (complete with blood splatters on the canvas) to the sweat and skin-texture, this game looks as good, or better, as any grappler we’ve seen on next-gen platforms. I know with next-gen technology, plugging the graphics as a strength seems obvious and unnecessary, but seriously, this game looks really, REALLY good, boys and germs.


Inspiration and Input


I’ve read numerous sources and seen developer interviews that overtly state that WWF No Mercy has been a big inspiration for iMPACT. I got so excited, that I almost crapped my pants. Twice.

I will stop shameless plugging No Mercy any minute now, but seriously, Midway has really hit the nail on the head for their source material. No Mercy captured the attitude and fun of the then-WWF, and to this day is one of the most fun games, not just wrestling or sports games, but GAMES, ever created. Midway’s effort to capture No Mercy’s essence and magic is reason enough to get overly excited.

Factor in the enormous input for TNA itself, and you have a very, very promising game. iMPACT’s moves were motion-captured by actual TNA wrestlers. This alone alludes to the meticulous process Midway is taking with this project. They are going straight to the source, to make this game as authentic as possible. Last week, OS posted a quote from Kurt Angle, in which he accused THQ of basically creating SvR in the lab, with minimal input from the WWE Superstars. Thankfully, Midway is not making the same alleged mistake.


Kickout and Submission Mechanics


iMPact is adding a little bit of spice to pin kickouts and submission reversals, which is welcome. Historically, kicking out of pins or escaping submissions involved blister-inducing button mashes, with little or no science too them. And for you N64’ers, I’m sure you remember the WCW/NWO Revenge analog stick cheat. Shame on you……….. Okay, I used it too.

The kickout mechanic involves moving an analog stick in order to fill a meter prior to the three-count, while the submission mechanic is basically pressing a displayed sequence of buttons as quickly and accurately as possible.

While I’m certain that stamina and finishing moves will no-doubt play a role difficulty of these mechanics, it is still a fine idea, and a deviation from the norm. Adding skill to pins and submissions will make the game more exciting, especially in multiplayer contests.


60 FPS


That’s right, next-genners. This game will run at 60 frames per second, smooth as a baby’s ass. Even online. Score.


POSSILBE CONS


Finisher System


I know that I’m probably being a crybaby here, but I really would like to see something new added to the whole “fill momentum meter, do finisher” routine. And that’s exactly what iMPACT is sporting.

When you get right down to it, the system is incredibly flawed, as it does not accurately depict how finishers occur within actual matches. I won’t rant too much here, but there really needs to be a high momentum/low opponent stamina hybrid system to dictate when finishers occur, to insure that finishers actually end matches at the proper time. I’ll just have to keep waiting on this one.


Collision Detection, Clipping, and Rough Transitions


For a game that looks so good graphically, I can’t help but be a little concerned about some of the video footage I saw. Punches and kicks hitting air inches in front of a wrestler’s face, only to see him fall back as if he’d been hit, Wrestlers morphing through the ring ropes. Skips in the animation when a wrestler steps over a downed opponent. It’s all in the video evidence.

Thankfully, we still have five months until the game’s release, so hopefully a lot of these problems can be remedied for the final build. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the game was delayed, as initially it was slated for Spring 08 release.


Announcer Commentary


Yet another aspect that may be improved before the game lands in stores, but the commentary at this stage seems downright awful. All of the cheesy wrestling sayings are there, like “He’s not getting up after that one!” There’re some wicked delay issues with the announcer commentary as well.

Hopefully, this will be fixed before the release, or the game will give me the option to turn in-match commentary off. Otherwise, I might get annoyed enough to want to punch a infant.



Roster Size


Initial reports state that iMPACT will have 25 playable wrestlers, with 2 unlockable bonus characters. This is a tad disheartening, seeing as how TNA’s website currently sports a roster of 50 plus. Hopefully, however, a robust CAW system will be some comfort.


Match Size


iMPACT developers have explicitly stated that as of now, online contests will be limited to 1 on 1. All of the videos I saw show at most, 4 wrestlers in the ring in off-line play. Bummer.

While the off-line play limits don’t get me down as much, it really is a shame to see that a game with so much online potential within its genre, is limiting its experience to singles matches. I know that this is the game’s maiden voyage, and next-gen games have been trending to develop slowly year over year, but I would really have enjoyed four player Ultimate X matches online.

UNDECIDED


A Fighter/Grappler Hybrid?


If you happened to catch my article last week, I mentioned that combination and transition attacks are a much-needed feature for a “perfect” wrestling game, as to create more fluid, realistic action, rather than disjointed attacks.

TNA iMPACT is apparently attempting to address this issue with combination attack (and combination reversal) system. While I think this is a step in the right direction, seeing video of the combo’s in action make me fear that this game may feel a bit too much like a traditional fighting game.

Throw in the button layout, which has separate buttons for kicks and punches (as opposed to a generic striking button that we have seen since the N64 days), and you have my panties twisted just a bit.

I may be getting lathered up for no reason here, but then again, Midway is the company that brought us Mortal Kombat. Hopefully that background doesn’t bleed into iMPACT too much.

 


Ultimate X Match

This should be listed under my Possible Pro’s section, however, past experience has made me very skeptical of specialty matches in wrestling games.

Traditionally, specialty matches have been too one-dimensional, offering only one specific way to achieve the match’s ultimate goal. Table matches required a specific button combination. Ladder matches required specific ladder placement and a mind-numbing mini-game. You get the drab picture.

Now, there are multiple eye-popping ways to rip an opponent down from the “X,” as they attempt to shimmy their way to victory. I’ve seen leg scissor yank-downs (similar to the old “chicken fight” on playground monkey bars), diving dropkicks from the turnbuckle, pull-down spinebusters, etc. However, it looks like there is one linear process to follow in order to survive victorious, i.e. a button-timing mini-game.

The overall controls and action in this mode may override the mundane path to victory, but the potential for a steaming crap-fest still exists.

 

CAW/Story Mode

Details on iMPACT’s Create-a-Wrestler system and story-mode have been minimal at best. Currently we know that Story Mode will allow you to unlock different arenas, located from England to Mexico. And that’s about all we know.
Even though iMPACT is a self-proclaimed stripped-down title, I’m still hoping for some depth and unpredictability for the story mode. A wrestling game can’t survive without a solid season/story/career mode, and I really hope Midway found the time to put something decent together.

There are a couple precious details we know about CAW. First and foremost, we know that there will be plenty of unlockables, including moves and clothing. You will unlock said items by purchasing them with “points” that you earn by executing moves within matches.

While I don’t mind unlocking clothing or characters, I have always loathed the whole unlocking moves issue. It’s a big negative when you start a season with a created wrestler, only to find out you have to give him a bunch of lame moves, because all of the good ones are locked. Really kills the mood.

I have also heard whispers around the net that there will be no created entrances in iMPACT, only a handful of generic entrances. Seeing as how the actual wrestler entrances are short anyway, this may not be that much of an issue. But the best of the CAW system had better be top-dollar.




AS ALWAYS:


I don’t want be talking to myself here. Let me know what you think, I’m sure I’m not the only one who spent paid hours looking for info on this game.


Until next week….


TNA iMPACT! Videos
Member Comments
# 1 Reckoning @ 04/25/08 03:18 PM
I'd LOVE to think this game will be perfect, but honestly it looks too brawly. The clipping seems worse than WWE SVR, and the Ultimate X looks like it may very well be WWE SVR's LAdder match idea that you will play a linear match 50 million times. I hope it's great, but I don't EXPECT much.
 

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